The Negative Effects of Social Media
In an interview, Sean Parker, the former president of Facebook spoke about how the Facebook social networking website is designed to prey on a psychological vulnerability within people. Sean Parker said the Facebook app which is used by over 2 billion people around the world takes advantage of human vulnerabilities and the human need for social-validation and is possibly re-wiring human brains.
There is no doubt that there are great benefits or advantages of using social media / networking websites. Social media sites can be beneficial both to an individual and for an organization.
Such benefits include:
Connectivity – people can connect and communicate from all over the world at a very low cost
Promotion – people can promote themselves, their ideas, and their businesses to a specific or wide range of audience.
Education & Awareness – people can learn and be updated on what’s trending and have updated information on various topics much quicker than before.
Help Communities – people can socially and spiritually help each other in various areas of life.
However, it appears that there is a darker side of social media that has been gradually emerging for years and its effects have been visible through the rising number of cyber bulling, revenge porn, cyber-crime and mental issues that appear to be growing as a result of excessive and improper use of social media.
So the question is this: What are the psychological vulnerabilities that social media sites like Facebook prey on? What are the mental health issues associated with the use of social media? Does the Bible say anything about how to deal with the negative effects of social media?
Social media can become addictive to the point that it disrupts productivity and normal daily routine. Teenagers are the most affected. Social media activities can occupy the mind unnaturally and may waste a person’s time when that particular time could be used more productively. The addiction further creates a lazy mind as one ends up having a low attention or retention span because of social media.
Triggers Jealousy & Depression
A certain study showed that of 1500 Facebook and Twitter users surveyed, 62 percent reported feeling inadequate and 60 percent reported having feelings of jealousy from comparing themselves to other users. Such jealousy leads to feelings of inadequacy and eventually depression due to comparisons with other users.
Social media can cause people to have a narcissistic or conceited personality. People begin to either secretly or openly crave attention and admiration from others because of social media. Social media is designed to make us crave for more “Likes” and more “Comments”. Therefore it creates and exploits our desire to be validated and accepted by others. This causes a person to judge his/her self-worth and significance based on the number of responses or acceptance from followers.
Reality Not Truly Reflected
Pretension and hypocrisy can be prevalent on social media. The information posted on social media sites does not always reflect the reality on the ground. For example, Facebook or Instagram pictures and posts by an individual do not always reflect the true reality of circumstances in that particular person’s life. Another example is that, having more “friends” on a social networking site does not always mean that one is more sociable. Therefore true characters / personalities / circumstances are not entirely reflected through that person’s social media posts.
Fake News / False Information
For several years, social media has been a platform for many people to spread false information.
So because social media platforms are one of the fastest ways to spread information, we now live in a world where people’s perceptions of issues and the world in general can be shaped by what they read on social media. Therefore, false information or fake news is now rampant on many social media platforms because deliberate misinformation can be dangerous to not only individuals, but also to society.
What Does The Bible Say?
The Bible addresses the negative effects of social media such as making comparisons, having jealousy and being narcissistic.
Galatians 6:4-5 and 2 Corinthians 10:12 discourages us from comparing ourselves with other people. Our significance or self-worth is not found in comparing ourselves with others or by attempting to be “better” than others – but our self-worth is found in having a relationship with Jesus Christ. In the eyes of God – we are all equal. Therefore, we need to see ourselves as how God sees us and not as how man sees us. God’s opinion of us is far more important than how others view us.
James 3:16 and Proverbs 14:30 are examples where scripture discourages people from breeding envy or jealousy towards others. Envy turns into anger and strife if it is not dealt with. Envy can also cause depression. Instead, we need to always focus on the positives in our lives. We always need to be thankful in all circumstances and have an attitude of love towards our neighbor.
Philippians 2:3 says “Don’t act out of selfish ambition or be conceited. Instead, humbly think of others as being better than yourselves”.
Therefore we need to be careful of the attention-getting craves that social media can breed within us. We need to always have a humble spirit rather than an attitude that seeks to grab attention or to be better than others.
Ephesians 4:29 says: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
So even on social media, we are encouraged to speak constructively with the aim to edify others. Spreading fake news, cyber-bullying or any kind of profanity and slander is destructive and creates a bad social culture.
Social media clearly has some positive aspects. However the negative aspects of using social media need to be heeded and care needs to be taken that we do not fall into the trap of being in bondage to the negatives associated with using social media.